Living on the Coast it is a relief to be able to avoid the middle class art event. But just occasionally it is useful to remind oneself. Having a gift voucher for the Regent, we went along to a video recording of the National Theatre Production of Harold Pinter’s, No Man’s Land. It proved to be a Hunger Games sort of event. Here we were in the remote provinces having a look at what people in the centre are up to. There was the extraordinary atmosphere of importance which the initial spin gave: the skill of the set, the props – even the butter, the lighting, the makeup, the actors talking of how great it had been working together… all this introduced by a woman of Middle Eastern appearance to make this very white event politically correct. This was high art, mate, and we in Greymouth were having a peak- thanks to modern technology.
The chatter ceased, the lights dimmed and we watched two old men stuck in a room talking past each other, inhabiting what Raymond Williams calls, ‘the negative group’. At a certain point in bourgeois society, the alienation that capitalism produces became so severe that communication was no longer possible. Fair enough, but in that case, better shut up and let the working class have a go. But if you own the theatre, then no, better keep trying to speak of how important you trying to speak, is.
The acting was not that good, the actors playing their adjustments (in Stanislavski’s term). If I drank that much whisky that quickly I would be in hospital, so a sense of reality was not useful. Two young blokes turned up and provided a bit of threat, but one of them didn’t know what to do with his hands (an amateur theatre problem). Pinter once said, I take people I don’t know and put them in a room and try to think what they might say. It’s a strange writerly experience – I tried it once and won a prize. Anyway, the experience was all so English – the Europeans would have made something philosophical or political of this, but the English just maunder along, assured of a previous imperial importance. I was reminded of Tony Blair. Meanwhile, the audience tittered occasionally at rather obvious jokes and were having a cultured experience.
I suspect the budget for the production would have been something in the vicinity of the cost of Greymouth’s new town square, which we went along to after Act One, to have a more pleasant cultural experience sitting on the grass in the afternoon sun, listening to a local lass sing, very humbly, a few of her songs.
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